Sunday, September 25, 2016

Home-Coming Trip 2016

Started off the first 2 weeks of September with a home trip for twin bro's wedding (will blog about that in another post). We started looking around for flights as soon as they confirmed on the dates about a year ago and bought our '3-in-1' tickets in January. So what do I mean by '3-in-1'? Since we were traveling all the way to Asia and in my attempt to show hubby more of Asia, I decided to maximize our trip by having 2 long layovers in Hong Kong and South Korea. Thanks to google flight, I managed to find flights from Huntsville to KL with these connections for $916 per person. Not too bad considering that we got to visit 3 countries in one trip (note to self, lowest fare I've seen so far for HSV-KL roundtrip is $750). 

Hauled 4 check-in bags fully packed with gifts/purchases. Out of these 4 luggages, both our stuffs only took up one cabin size luggage (good thing about summer travels). 

Btw, I almost had a panic-attack the morning of our flight when we found out that we couldn't check our bags all the way to KL (even though all our flights were issued in one ticket). What?!?! Somehow due to the overnight transit (date change) in HK, the system doesn't allow them to do it and we would have to retrieve our bags in HK and recheck our bags at the counter. My main concern was that we wanted to spend the evening/night walking around HK, and if we had to wait til the next morning to recheck our bags, we may have to pay extra to store our luggages at the airport (ain't cheap for 4 luggages). =.= Déjà vu of my experience in Changi airport when I flew to the US for UGRAD. When we boarded our flight from Dallas to HK, we had two unanswered questions: 
1. How many hours ahead of our flight can we drop our bags at the counter? 
2. Are we still allowed to check in 2 bags per person?

Fortunately, the answers to both our questions were good news (coz HK airport is awesome!)
1. Collected our luggages, put in one trolley (yes free trolleys!), went up to the departure hall, looked for Cathay Pacific's counter and managed to recheck our bags without any hassle. Quoted from HKIA's website "Passengers travelling with confirmed booking can check in, collect boarding passes and drop bags within 24 hours prior to departures." 
2. Technically, the baggage allowance for flights from HK to Malaysia is limited to 30KG per person (ours were about 80KG in total) but since our flights originated from the US, we were allowed 2 bags/person. The staff checking us in had to obtain approval from her supervisor but luckily they knew the rules. =)

Aight, enough of storytelling (in case others encounter the same problem). Back to photos...

Aug 31 (Wed) - Sept 2 (Fri): Huntsville - Dallas - Hong Kong

Very glad that we had the middle seat empty for our 16 hours flight (window+aisle strategy success). AA doesn't have as much leg space but this made the journey so much better . P.S. We've both flown several times between US and Asia visiting each other in the past but this was actually our first transpacific flight together. =P

AA's food was a lil' disappointing but it's alright coz we know that we're about to have a lot of good food for the next 2 weeks. =)

Before and after our 16-hour flight. =P 

Landed in HK after a lack-of-sleep 16 hours, dropped our luggages, freshened up ourselves, and off we go on our self-planned night transit tour of Hong Kong. And yes, I made an itinerary even though it was only for a few!! (P.S. Hubby was ko-ed)

First stop...Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung on Nathan Road. Initially, I thought about having dim sum but found out that most places only accept cash (we prefer using cc). Hubby specifically requested for this so dinner was an easy decision. =) Xiao Long Bao is hubby's favorite Asian food so far (but sorry I don't know how to make!).

After a very satisfying meal, we walked along Nathan road towards Tsim Sha Tsui to Victoria Harbor as we enjoy all the lights of this busy city. It's been 14 years since my last visit to HK so this was also a good visit for me to see how much the city has changed.

At Victoria Harbour with hubby.

The view that never gets old. We then took Star Ferry across to Central.

As seen from Victoria Harbor, it was a very cloudy day but since we had nothing else to do, we decided to risk seeing nothing and took the bus up to Victoria Peak, at 10.45pm. The journey took about 40 minutes and we were the only ones in the 'private'! Obviously I did a lil' too much research for this transit and found out that the best spot for photo at Lugard Road lookout. Walked about 15 minutes along the dark terrace to the lookout point and saw nothing but fog (bottom right pic). =.= Oh well, we tried...haha!!

Took the bus back to the airport at 2am and was surprised that the immigration was still open at midnight. Was cool being at the airport at this hour coz it was so empty and quiet. =) Managed to find a lounging area to rest and took a nap.

Thanks to mom for the United lounge pass, we were able to use the lounge when it opened at 6am to take shower (after more than 24 hours) and have breakfast before catching our flight to KL at 8.30am. Coincidentally, our boarding gate was right below the lounge...perfecto!

Clean, refreshed and full...definitely fully utilized the lounge. =)

The Cathay Pacific flight to KL was quite empty so we got a whole middle row for ourselves. Note to self, avoid watching tear jerking movies (i.e. Me Before You) during a 4-hr flight, puffy eyes at arrival is doesn't look!

That's it for our 14hr40m layover in HK. HK is not a cheap city but we only spent HKD150/$20 per person (excl. dinner) for this transit. Summary of our transportation costs:

Octopus Card - HKD 150/person (HKD 100 credit + HKD 50 deposit)
  • Bus A22 from airport to Jordan Road - HKD 39
  • Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central Pier - HKD 2.50
  • Bus 15 from Central Pier to Victoria Peak - HKD 9.80
  • Bus 15 from Victoria Peak to Central Pier - HKD 9.80
  • Bus N11 from Central to airport - HKD 31

Sept 2 (Fri): KL

This trip was short so we only spent less than 24 hours in KL. Nevertheless, still big thanks to RaeJon for hosting us and treating us to all the yummy food! =) 

Sept 3-4 (Sat-Sun): KL - Cameron Highlands
Hubby's previous trips to Malaysia had always been just KL and Penang, so we planned a family trip to Cameron this time. Thanks to the family for coordinating and making this trip happen! 

Our bus from KL to Cameron took about 4 hours through super windy hilly roads while the family rented a 7-seater and drove up from Penang. Happy to see the family again after 9 months!! =D We were supposed to do some sightseeing that day but thanks to the crazy traffic at Cameron, the only activity for the day was 2-in-1 lunch+dinner at 4pm. =P

Now that I'm a 'farmer', I'm a lil' more interested in! We rented an apartment for a night and this was the view of Kea Farm from the apartment.

First stop on our 2nd day in Cameron was Boh Sungai Palas Tea Center. We didn't know that there's actually a way to drive up to the tea center so bro and hubby had to help 'carry' grandma up the steps...morning workout for the!! =P 

Main reason for visiting Cameron...this view. =)

Photos with the fam!

And we secured one of the best seats in there...haha!! 

Steamboat and zhu cha for lunch before dropping Sheng off at the bus station...yummy!!

Big Red Strawberry Farm and hydroponic garden.

Like I said before, now that I'm a 'farmer', I have a lil' more appreciation for growing veggies. ;P

First meal in Penang after a 4-hour drive back from Cameron (thanks Da Sao for driving)!

Sept 5-12: Penang

Home trip is all about Family, Friends, Food (and more food)!! 

Thanks XinYi and "D" for the treat! Eastern Wishes didn't favorite lemon steamed squid!! =)

Tambun seafood with Monica & Adrian (Sheng's wedding photographers from Spain). So many angmoh in da house...haha! :P

Dinner with the family, aunt and uncle at Zhong Tian.

Thanks to the colleagues/batchmates for the lunch treat!

Sheng & XinYun's wedding after-party at Ruins of Victoria. 

Good times with cousins and friends!

Happy Family!! This trip felt a bit like CNY coz our families and relatives traveled to Penang for Sheng & XY's wedding. The cousins were also back from Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan so it was great to have everyone together again! =) 

Time spent with the family is never long enough, one week flew by too quickly. Unfortunately, we gotta get back to work. =.= Till we meet again next trip! 

Sept 12: KL - Seoul

No luck for empty seat for the full flight from KL to Seoul on Korean Air. Unfortunately we both didn't get much sleep on this red-eye flight so we were zombies during the transit tour.

Nice benefit of transiting in transit tours. We picked the 5hr tour to Bukchon Hanok Village and Gwangjang market. Last time I visited Seoul was 10 years ago but I've never been to these 2 places so I figured the transit tour would be an easy (and free) way to see some sights and have some Korean street food. But to be honest, the tour was a lil' boring.

Bukchon Hanok Village (Korean traditional village)...a popular filming site.

We were given about 40 minutes to walk around but the main thing was just this street.

Gwangjang of the oldest and largest traditional markets in Korea. Running Man filmed episode 186 here. The food market here is famous for bindaetteok, Mayak (drug) kimbap and meat dumplings but we only tried the kimbap and fish cake here. Most of the stalls sell the same thing so it was quite difficult deciding which stall to eat at. Somehow I felt that this place was too touristy, especially when the ahjumas started speaking in Mandarin...such a turn off. We did meet some nice sellers but you could easily find good street food anywhere else.

We made it back to the airport at 2pm and with a few more hours to spare, we enjoyed a free shower (for transit passengers) and did some craft work using hanji (traditional Korean paper) at the Traditional Culture Workshops. Incheon is another nice airport for transits.'s time to say goodbye to Asia and head back to the US. AA's flight from Incheon to Dallas was entirely full but I managed to sleep a pretty good bit. I actually enjoyed the bibimbap and Kimchi fried rice.

That's all for our 3-in-1 home trip. This trip was short and the week went by fast, but we were very happy to spend some quality time with family & friends. Take care and see y'all again soon!!

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